Controversial legislation to introduce a euthanasia scheme to Victoria passed the upper house yesterday afternoon.
Victoria will be the first state in Australia to legalise euthanasia, after the Victorian Legislative Council passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation 22 votes to 18.
The vote came after the upper house MPs debated the bill over several late night sittings.
Due to amendments added to the bill, it will still need to be sent back to the lower house to become law, but with the numbers in the lower house already secured for the bill, its passage looks inevitable.
State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed supported the bill and believed there was support for the bill across the wider Victorian community.
‘‘And I am pleased to see that a number of amendments were achieved in the upper house,’’ Ms Sheed said.
‘‘I and others supported a number of changes when it passed the lower house, but at that point the government wouldn’t entertain it at all.’’
She expected the amended bill to pass the lower house this year, but she said it would be a long time until any euthanasia scheme was in place.
‘‘There is a lot of work in training for medical practitioners and what medication will be used,’’ she said.
The passage of the bill has led to emotional scenes across Victorian Parliament, as close party colleagues in Labor and the Coalition voted with their conscience on the issue.
Ms Sheed said her decision to support the bill was one of the most difficult in her political career, but something that needed to be done.
‘‘There is evidence that people commit suicide because they have a terminal illness, and they often do it by hanging or gassing themselves, (which are) really horrible ways of committing suicide,’’ she said.
‘‘It has been happening for a long time.’’
Nationals Member for Euroa Steph Ryan voted against the bill, but stressed she was not against the concept of assisted dying.
‘‘I hope that the government does not ignore these gaps in palliative care just because they have got the outcome they were looking for,’’ Ms Ryan said.
She expressed concern that due to highlighted problems in palliative care, people with a terminal illness could feel pressured to access voluntary assisted dying.
Labor MP for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp voted for the bill and believed the vote showed the parliament at its best.
‘‘For me we have taken a big step forward today,’’ Mr Gepp said.
‘‘This bill was about providing individuals with choice at the end of life.
‘‘It seems a bit of anathema that we allow people to make critical health decisions except for that point.’’
The bill will give terminally ill people in intense pain with less than six months the live the right to ask to access a medically assisted death.
People with neurodegenerative diseases would have that timeframe extended to 12 months.